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February 26, 2020

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School’s out, but classes are still in: on line

RENA Du, mother of a first grader in Minhang District, turned on the TV at 8:30am yesterday for her daughter Grace, not to let her watch cartoons, but to have a test lesson.

The lesson, provided by the Shanghai Education Commission, was attended by about 1.45 million primary and secondary students and their teachers citywide on TV and the Internet to try out the networks in preparation for online schooling starting next Monday.

The 20-minute lesson was not a regular class, but featured a doctor demonstrating correct protective measures against the coronavirus, a school principal instructing students on how to arrange their studies at home and a primary student showing her daily schedule during the epidemic.

After the class, many schools arranged online discussions. Minhang Experimental Primary School used Xiaoheiban, an application approved by the Ministry of Education for communication between parents and schools.

In a first-grade class, the head teacher raised questions such as “What have you learned from the class?” and “Do you think it’s time to relax our vigilance since the number of confirmed cases in Shanghai is decreasing?” Answers poured in from 45 students, most in voice messages. To keep order and make communication more effective, the head teacher then changed the way of discussion and named some of the students to answer each question.

He Xuefeng, principal of the school, said the school had trained teachers, students and parents in observing the class on different platforms and using the app in discussions.

“This is the first time for the city and our school to organize online teaching in such a wide range and we all need to learn how to cope with it and improve our work step by step,” he said.

He said the school will make some micro-lessons, such as instructions on reading, sports and innovation at home, and deliver them online as supplements to the classes provided by the education commission.

The commission said yesterday’s lesson was delivered successfully and was useful experience for all departments when regular classes begin on Monday.

It announced last week that all schools in Shanghai would remain closed indefinitely and offer online classes from March to ensure the safety of students and teachers during the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak.

Some parents, including Du, told Shanghai Daily they’d checked their cable TV or Internet and set their alarms on Monday evening to ensure the class would go smoothly.

“We haven’t used cable TV for a long time because we use computers and smartphones now,” said Du. “But since my daughter will have to take courses every day, I think cable TV would be more stable than Internet platforms and its large screen is also preferred.”

She switched on the TV soon after the education authorities announced the online schooling plan. It did took some time for the set top box to upgrade the system.

“But I checked it last night again to make sure nothing was wrong,” she said. Du said her daughter got up at 7am yesterday, as she does on regular school days, but about two hours earlier than her holiday routine.

“Online teaching has been used in some training organizations, such as her English cramming school, but it’s the first time for her to take school courses online, so she was excited,” said Du.

Both she and her daughter liked the trial lesson.

“It showed the right ways for self-protection, which I think is crucial,” she said. “As Shanghai has been reporting few new cases these days, we have all become a little bit relaxed and the alerts for precautions from the expert in the lesson is important at this moment. The class also included cartoons, which makes it attractive for kids.”

She said the student’s schedule set a good example for her daughter too, who made her own daily schedule immediately after the class.

But Du and some other parents also worried about the increase in screen time and the possibility of negative effects on their eyesight.

Experts from Shanghai Aier Eye Hospital suggest parents help children stay an arm’s length from the screen and turn their gaze to objects 6 meters away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

They also suggest parents make sure that their children have enough sleep, at least 8 hours a day. And healthy food is also important.


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